Altria and NY targets Indian tobacco industry

Published on May 10th, 2010 09:23

The owners of New York tobacco shops have been sick and tired with the growing sales of tax-free cigarettes by the Oneida, Seneca and other Indian Nations. So, they have united their efforts on cracking down those sales with very authoritative allies – the leading tobacco company in the USA and NY officials.

Altria Tobacco giant

“Albany Lets Billions Slip through Its Fingers. Tax Dollars We Need for Vital Services Go Uncollected,” reads one of the numerous ads, published in the most popular newspapers across New York, and sponsored by Altria, the owner of Phlip Morris USA.

Leaders of the Oneida Tribal Nation admit they are shocked by the position of Tobacco giant and feel betrayed, since they have been working with Philip Morris for many years, and the company provided SavOn and other stores operated by Indian nations with their tobacco brands, promotional goods and other things to stimulate sales.

“It is like a stab in the back from one of your friends or relatives,” complained Robert Hillburger, head of the Oneida Tribal Nation business office. Meanwhile, representatives of Philip Morris USA, which besides the advertisement campaign, has also launched a web-site devoted to tax collection issues, named “Enforce The Law – Collect The Tax”, say they are not doubting the sovereignty and rights of Indian tribes, but are only concerned with the problem of tax collection.

According to James Calvin, chairman of the NY Convenience Stores Association, the campaign is nothing new to them, as he had seen many similar moves to tax Indian cigarettes initiated across New York in recent years.

However, Mr. Calvin admitted, that the latest campaign differs from the previous ones, because it is supported by Altria, which holds an overwhelming leadership position in U.S. tobacco market.

In addition, New York authorities have also shown a strong interest to levy taxes on Indian tobacco in order to generate money to fill the budget gaps. The sales of tax-free cigarettes in Indian tobacco shops have been a major headache for New York officials.

The first governor who pledged to levy taxes on Indian tobacco was Gov. George Pataki, who had to renounce from implementing the ordinance, when nearly Seneca Indian Nation members blocked several key roads in the state.

After Gov Paraki, there was Gov. Eliot Spitzer who as well promised to collect the taxes during his election campaign, but rejected the measure when being in office.

Currently, Gov. David Paterson is trying to start collecting the taxes, under the regulation he signed into law almost 16 months ago in Utica. However, according to the President of Convenience stores Association, the longer the tobacco taxes on Indian cigarettes remains not collected, the more it is affecting New York c’ stores.

David Sutton, Philip Morris spokesman stated the company decided to launch the campaign to support these stores that are loosing revenues. Meantime, Oneida Indian Nation decided to stop product placement of Marlboro, Parliament, and other brands manufactured by Philip Morris USA in all stores operated by the members of the Nation.

By Kevin Lawson, Staff Writer. Copyright © 2010 All rights reserved.

Related tags: altria | tobacco industry | cigarettes tax | philip morris | tobacco shop

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